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How gay friendly is gay Paris?

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How gay friendly is gay Paris?
The 2014 Gay Pride parade in Paris. Photo: AFP
16:40 CEST+02:00
The French capital has many nicknames, one of them being “gay Paris”. To be fair, this was in reference to the word’s original meaning of “cheerful” rather than homosexuality, but on the occasion of Gay Pride, we’re taking a look at just how gay-friendly “gay Paris” really is.

From the vibrant Gay Pride parade to the rainbow-washed Marais district, let’s take a closer look at the gay scene in Paris.

One of the world’s most fabulous gay pride parades

Photo: AFP

Gay rights groups were angered this year over the city’s decision to limit the route Saturday’s Gay Pride parade, la Marche des fiertés, to half its usual length, citing safety concerns. 

But despite the shorter route and extra security, the show will go on.

Photo: AFP

“This year’s Marche des fiertés will be exceptional — with a dense route that will be much more festive, along the Seine and monuments of the most beautiful city in the world,” the president of Men In France (MIF), self-described as France’s only 100 percent gay “conviviality” association, told The Local.

“This weekend will be a wonderful weekend of gay life in Paris, among friends and future friends.

“What more can we ask for, apart from some sun?" 

A ‘queer’ capital for over 100 years

"It's good to be gay in Paris because no one really cares that much," Bryan Pirolli, co-founder of The Gay Locals told The Local. "I never feel like I stand out. Gay men and straight men have similar senses of style so everyone kind of blends together."
"It's historically such a gay mecca, so everyone is used to it and there's less prejudice," he added.
Indeed, Paris has been seen as a bit of a gay haven since the early 20th century. 

You might know the Marais as the beating heart of the queer capital, but it only became the gay center of Paris relatively recently in the 1980s. 

Long before that in the early 1900s, gays gathered in Montmartre and Pigalle.

“In the first part of the 20th century, the visibility of such well-known figures as Natalie Barney or André Gide, as well as the flamboyance of meeting places in Montmartre or Pigalle, helped to construct the image of Paris as a ‘queer’ capital,” wrote Florence Tamagne in the 2014 book Queer Cities, Queer Cultures: Europe since 1945.

In the mid-20th century the gay hub moved to Saint-Germain-des-Pres in the sixth arrondissement, and by the 1960s it had shifted again to Rue Saint Anne in the first. 

Although this street has now been taken over by Japanese restaurants, you can still find a few of these historical venues, the last remainders of some of the best gay nightclubs of the 60s and 70s. 

The Marais: the City of Light’s favourite gayborhood

Photo: Loic Lagarde/Flickr

These days, it is indeed the Marais that can claim to be the gay center of Paris. This vibrant, trendy neighborhood, which spreads across parts of the the third and fourth arrondissements, is an internationally renowned “gayborhood”.

Rainbow flags and penis-shaped baked goods abound in this area, with the southwestern portion especially awash with gay-friendly establishments, gay bars, and gay nightclubs such as Le Depot, one of the largest gay clubs in Europe.

Photo: Legay Choc/Facebook

It’s been the gay heart of Paris since 1980s, with the first gay bar opening in 1978. The oldest existing gay bar in the Marais is the Duplex, opened in 1980.

But there’s more to gay Paris than the Marais

But although it’s the epicenter, the Marais isn’t the only hotspot for gays in Paris.

Pigalle is another neighborhood popping with gay-friendly nightlife. 

Then there's the famous nightclub Le Queen on the Champs-Elysées. Although it’s now more gay-friendly than strictly a gay nightclub, it was the place to be for gays in Paris in its 90s heyday, when French DJ David Guetta served as its artistic director.

Gay Olympics in Paris

Photo: Gay Games Official Website

In 2018 Paris will host the 10th edition of the Gay Games, an inclusive sporting and cultural event that draws in thousands from around the world to “foster and augment the self-respect of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and all sexually-fluid or gender-variant individuals (LGBT+) throughout the world,” according to the official website

Inspired by the Olympic Games, the Gay Games were founded in San Francisco in 1982 by Tom Waddell, an American gay medical doctor and athlete who competed in the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Like the Olympics, the Gay Games are held every four years, but there are no qualifying standards. Anyone can participate, regardless of sexual orientation. Competitors come from many nations, including from those where homosexuality is still illegal and hidden.

The 2018 Gay Games in Paris expects a turnout of around 15,000 participants from over 70 countries.

Open-minded locals

Photo: AFP

Paris got some bad press in 2013 when thousands marched in protest of recently-legalized gay marriage.

But in general, “Parisians are very open-minded,” Gilles Bry of Paris Gay Village, an association promoting LGBT tourism, told The Local. “In Paris like in the rest of France, we don’t have too many problems of homophobia.”

Bry says the anti-gay marriage protesters were mainly “Catholics who represented just a small minority. When we measure the public opinion in polls, they are very favorable for gay marriage.”

Paris even had an openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, from 2001 to 2014. 

Homophobic acts on the wane

Indeed, homophobic incidents seem to be on the decline in Paris and the rest of France over the past few years.

Although there was a spike in homophobic acts, especially physical attacks, after gay marriage was legalized in May of 2013, since then the number of reported incidents has kept going down.

According to this year’s annual report by French gay rights organisation SOS Homophobie, reports of homophobic incidents went down by 40 percent from 2014 to 2015. 

2014 was already down 38 percent from the year before when gay marriage was legalized and the rate of homophobic acts was at a record high.

France compared to the rest of the world

France as a whole ranks fifth place on the Spartacus Gay Travel Index, a global comparison based on factors such as anti discrimination legislation, marriage and civil partnership, LGBT marketing, anti-gay laws, hostile locals, prosecution, and murders.  

France came in behind winner Sweden, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The US on the other hand ranked much farther down the list in 36th place.

READ ALSO: Ten things you didn’t know about gay Paris

By Katie Warren

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